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Council urged to ‘see sense’ over proposal to limit pupil climate strikes

Edinburgh City Council’s education committee will discuss proposals on Friday to restrict action on permitted days off from school to one day a year.

Students take part in a global school strike for climate change outside the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)
Students take part in a global school strike for climate change outside the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Douglas Barrie, PA Scotland

The Scottish Greens are calling for councillors to “see sense” ahead of discussing proposals to restrict the number of climate change protests school pupils take part in.

Edinburgh City Council’s education committee will discuss proposals on Friday to limit such action on permitted days off from school to just one day a year.

Thousands of children previously descended on the Scottish Parliament building in March and May along with fellow pupils in more than 100 towns and cities across the UK.

More action is also planned by the Scottish Youth Climate Strike (SYCS) group on September 20 and 27 as part of what has become a continuing global movement started by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.

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The Scottish Green Party’s Ross Greer (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ahead of Friday’s meeting, Green MSP Ross Greer said: “Instead of treating these young people like truants, Labour and SNP councillors need to start listening to them.

“They must recognise that school pupils have been forced to take this action by the failure of previous generations to stop the climate crisis.

“Green councillors made sure that Edinburgh led the way on supporting the first school climate strikes this year.

“Instead of taking this backwards step, the council should recognise that these actions are not only admirable, they are entirely in keeping with the Curriculum for Excellence and the objective of developing responsible citizens.

“We are in a climate emergency, with the UN giving governments just a decade to turn things around.

“Clearly our leaders need to educate themselves on the facts before deciding whether taking this vital political action damages the education of our young people.”

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The scene at the Scottish Parliament building of one of the previous protests (Jane Barlow/PA)

The council’s education convener Ian Perry previously said: “Having discussed this with a number of people, there’s a consensus we should support the young people with climate change – this is one of the most important issues that’s facing them.

“However, there needs to be a balance and if we allow them more than one day, the issue will be they are missing school.

“We are confident that one day won’t affect their education. This is an authorised day.

“If they feel really strongly about it and they strike and say that climate change is more important than their education, that is up to the pupils and their parents and could have the potential to harm their education.”

An officer’s report ahead of Friday’s meeting also stated: “The theme of the strike was powerful and emotive but should not be the overriding issue in determining whether children are encouraged to be present at school.

“There are other, more productive ways to demonstrate support for climate change.”

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Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is credited with starting the global movement (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

However, SYCS organisers hit out at the proposals on Wednesday.

Dylan Hamilton, 15, said: “Allowing us to protest once a year is simply not acceptable and will not let us get across how serious this is to the people in power.

“Our classic education, such as preparation for exams, may suffer because of the strikes. However, by striking we learn politics, organisation, science, independence and more about society than we’ve ever been taught.

“To say we are harming our education is untruthful.

“Furthermore, punishing pupils for attending the climate strikes is a violation of our human right to freedom of expression.

“We urge Edinburgh council to take back this proposal and instead focus on fixing the climate crisis so we don’t feel the need to protest instead of going to school.”

PA

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